Category Archives: For kids 5-10

Doughnut cravings? Where to get your fix in Wanchai

Every once in a while, I get a doughnut (donut if you’re American 😀) craving. Oh where to go for a simple doughnut that will hit the spot? Most local style doughnuts are a bit chewy and leave a lot of sugar crystals all over the place. 

I’ve had ones from the ABC Bakery, the takeaway section at Taste, and the one from Happy Cake Shop on Queens Road East. Personally, I quite enjoy the JCo ones for the airy texture (not chewy or doughy) and it’s “not so sweet” on the palate.

Here are some photos for you to decide where to go for your doughnut fix in Wanchai.

Ground floor deli at Hopewell Center
Very popular choice at the ABC Bakery
Doughnuts are cheap but vary batch to batch
Hit the J Co doughnuts on Hennessy Road

Apart from the texture and consistency of J CO’s doughnuts, they also have a nice cafe setting for you to enjoy your doughnut, elevating it from a grab and go snack in a bag to a pastry status.

Nice warm, spacious setting

It’s warmly decorated, spacious and well lit. There’s also a ramp entrance, a huge plus for strollers and prams.

So here’s the one I had. Non glazed basic doughnut which was an absolute delight.

Enjoying my simple doughnut
Find them at 55 Hennessy Road.

J Co Cafe in Wanchai

It’s on the side of the street heading down towards Causeway Bay, or check out their Fb page here.

J Co Doughnuts on Hennessy Road
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Bicycle & Scooter shop – The Bicycle World 

Giant Bicycle shop (aka the Bicycle World, but Giant clearly has marketing monopoly here) has the rudest staff but the best collection of bikes and scooters in Wan Chai. Be prepared that if you walk into that shop speaking only English, you’re generally going to get ignored. If you’re going in to get advice on what to buy, be prepared to be given the advice in a somewhat insulting manner.


I’ve been to this shop at least ten times to  assist friends acquire various items and accessories but the service has never improved. Some of the guys in there are a tad more genial but it isn’t at all often that you get a smile. There was once I went in to buy a kid’s helmet for a friend and a gweilo (Caucasian) guy was leaving in a huff, swearing and cursing saying “don’t treat me like that just because I’m a foreigner”. I almost stopped him to tell him that they treat everyone like that. Those guys are in need of endorphins, or maybe happier girlfriends. Or maybe a pay raise.

Notwithstanding the stinking attitude, the shop does carry high quality bikes, scooters and accessories at competitive prices. The helmets and scooters are at least 20% cheaper than toys ‘R’ us and you get 10% off if you pay in cash.

We were there to pick up a micro scooter for a friend’s daughter. Her Christmas present. It was a Sunday and we stood outside at 11.30am. It wasn’t open.


Okay, so another half an hour. Off to the swings round the corner. We came back at 11.50am. Nope. Still shut.

At 11.55am, one of the guys showed up, unlocked the shutters and lifted them just high enough for him to slip in and lower them down again. At 12.08, another guy showed up and that’s when they lifted the shutters entirely. The first guy brought out two incense sticks as a prayer offering to the small shrine on the outside of the shop, usually to appease dwelling spirits and pray for lots of customers.


The shop has a range of children’s bicycles and adult bicycles.


But we were there for the scooters.


Here they sell the “Micro” brand of  scooters. Designed in Switzerland, price ranges from HKD 700+ to 900+ per scooter for kids. Adult scooters go for HKD 2000+.


Don’t forget to buy a helmet for your kid. They have various sizes, measure your kid’s head before heading over. Helmets go for HKD 400+ depending on the size and design. The ones with the cartoon characters are a bit cheaper but they only fit one year olds.


Find them at 15 Wood Road, Wan Chai. About a 15 minute walk from Wan Chai MTR, already accounting for the time you need to weave in and out of human traffic on narrow pavements, unless you go on Sunday.

Summer activities for children and adults at Lee Tung Avenue

I enjoy living in Wan Chai very much. Not only is it one of the most convenient neighbourhoods in Hong Kong (it’s flat!) but it’s got a lot going on in all the hustle bustle. Add to it the latest transformative development, Lee Tung Avenue with good marketeers and the place on this side of Wan Chai is an attraction for families and young (or slightly older) hipsters.

This summer has been scorching hot, now with the holidays on, families have been scratching heads as to what to do with restless children. 

Lee Tung Avenue has a Saturday evening activity for kids which could be fun to check out.

According to the poster, it’s based on the Shakespearean Midsummer night’s dream in honour of Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary.


On until the 27th of August 2016, the activities of kiddy face painting, fairy dancing workshop and the fairy flash mob dancing take place conveniently around dinner time… Great for parents who want to grab a meal and let the kids roam on a pedestrianised street mall for a bit out of the air conditioned environment.

A friend who lives in Wan Chai also told me about her recent visit to Ophelia, the latest “it” place for younger hipsters. She described it as very opulent and glamorously decorated. For that corporate event, there were dancers and lots of drinks going around, undoubtedly making the place even cooler. My friend said that it’s a place you can only get into if you have a reservation, the bouncers are very strict at the street entry level. If your name isn’t on the list, you can’t even get up there.

Then while waiting for a medical appointment, I read about it in a magazine called Crave.


And decided to see where it is located.

A temporary signboard marks the lift lobby location (more or less near the Elephant hairdressers, nearer Le Pain Quotidien).
When I checked again later on, the signboard had been removed, so I guess the staff only place it out when they are expecting guests. 

Here’s a write up on Ophelia’s in the SCMP. Unfortunately I doubt they’d let me in with a toddler in tow… Although Mr Sutton should allow this during the day as part of his fairy story legacy for the younger generation. Is it all linked to the fairy promo going on in the central piazza? Maybe.

 

Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool

Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool Opening Schedule

It’s been crazy crazy hot in Hong Kong recently, too hot for long outdoor walks and “too hot for scootering” my toddler tells me.

So we’ve resorted to swimming. Not to Shek O beach which is our usual weekend morning hang out (it’s also way too hot even at 8am now and the water has been filthy the past 3 weekends), but the swimming pool in our building and the public pool 10 minutes down the road. 

Our indoor pool isn’t heated, it gets quite chilly in the evenings, the ventilation has got to be on to keep air circulation going but this ends up having a cooling effect whenever any part of your body is out of the water.

So, we tried going to the nearby Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool. It’s a horrible walk there from Queens Road East, unless you already live in the Oi Kwan Road area, we prefer to take the bus one long stop to Tang Shiu Kin Hospital rather than inhaling 10 mins worth of unrelenting traffic PM 2.5 excreta. 


The pool costs less than HKD 20 to enter. It’s pretty cheap and many people do use it.. We’ve been several times now and it’s been busy whether it’s day or night. 


The swimming complex has a number of pools; the main swimming pool for serious lap- lane swimmers, the indoor exercise and teaching pool, the outdoor training pool and the toddler pool. 


Upon entry into the complex, you are funnelled into the separate male / female changing areas, where there are lockers, benches and showers. Then a walk down a corridor to the rain showers to rinse you a little before the pool area. 

There’s also a family changing room but this is locked and opened only on request.


Lots of interesting little signs with advice…


The female changing room is pretty spacious, but it can fill up on weekends and there are half or fully naked women occupying almost every bit of the changing area. Don’t be intimidated, one just needs to find an empty locker and eek out a space.


After you’re changed into your swim gear and put your valuables away, it’s time to head over to the pool.


I’ve included here a way to keep your things dry while going through the shower… Hold your things out to the side as you walk through the curtain of water.

The first pool you get to is the main indoor swimming pool. Here, it’s filled with the experienced swimmers doing exercise laps. It’s all speedos, goggles and swimming caps in this pool. Kids occupy the far section near the bleachers, then it’s a few shared swimming lanes that you can join if you think you can keep up, and an open area where people are free to carve out their own lane. 


The outdoor training pool was the one our toddler liked best. Warm water with a view and lots of people packing it out at all times. Kids splashing, parents yelling, even adults learning to swim. You pretty much see it all there. 


The poolside deckchairs are by no means comfortable but they do offer a tired mommy a place to sit and watch if the weather is good. The benches in the shade on the far side are a lot less pleasant and I got bitten by mosquitoes there once.


There’s also a toddler pool at the very end, it’s very shallow and intentionally isolated. There was no one there in the evenings so I guess it’s popular mostly in the mornings and late afternoons.


After the swim, head back up to the changing room for a hot shower.

Then exit as you entered 🙂

Note that pool cleaning day is Wednesday, so the pool is shut.

Salsa Party in Wan Chai this weekend 12th March

 Thanks to the Sassy magazine of which I’m a regular reader, I now know that there’s a salsa party happening this Saturday. The forecast is for rain so I have no idea whether there’s a wet weather plan or if it will continue regardless. 

Update: it’s being held at Hej House, more or less directly opposite Le Pain Quotidien.

  
Outside Le Pain Quotidien, there’s a big music set up going on. A bit unclear if this will be leading up to it or if it’s their own launch party. 

I’ve been waiting for LPQ to open for a while…. Teething problems must have delayed them from the planned launch in February (website recently changed opening date to March). Many disappointed customers have stood outside, shaken their heads and headed elsewhere. 

  
How can you possibly advertise breakfast yet open for business at only 11am? Quite unacceptable.

The Wan Chai Green Trail

Hong Kong’s dramatic natural scenery provides a really fantastic backdrop for photos on a clear day. There’s the lush green mountains and the dark swirling ocean waters of the harbour. 

If you live well, it’s likely that you have an apartment that has a view of the mountains, the ocean, or both (that’s living very well).

Hong Kong has reclaimed a significant amount of land by filling in the harbour instead of building uphill. Residential development has gradually crept up the mountain but high prices for these properties (probably due to the cost of infrastructure installation and government regulation) keeps this in check. Interestingly, the residential area that borders the green lung is termed “upper edge“. 

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The Wan Chai Green Trail starts at sea level in Wan Chai and ascends rapidly through the upper edge and up the mountain slope.

 

Bamboo Grove Condo, upper edge
 
It starts by the old Wan Chai post office (next to the Fresh Grower vegetable shop) and leads up to Kennedy Road. 

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Wan Chai Green Trail

This trail head isn’t particularly scenic, so our recommendation is that you walk up to Kennedy road via Stone Nullah Lane. 

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If you came up by the post office, the trail should be straight ahead of you i.e. just across the road. If you came up by Stone Nullah Lane, cross the road at the traffic right and turn right towards the huge condo development known as Bamboo Grove. The trail begins again here with some stairs and a signboard.

Depending on your level of fitness, you may consider the slope steep (or not). The incline I would estimate is about 20% but your thighs and heart rate might make you guess something closer to 30%. If it’s your first time, take a few breaks to admire the skyline and greet the people meandering down the slope… Some of whom go backwards.

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At a normal walking pace, and no long breaks, you should reach the intersection with Bowen road within 10 minutes. There are some benches right here on the cross roads and more seating areas to the left. There’s also a public toilet if you need to use one. 

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Feeling comfortable? Continue upwards. This next stretch is less steep than the one you just came up and winds around to the left. There are some nice views over Wan Chai / Causeway Bay Area, and if you look up through the tree canopy, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of Hong Kong’s most expensive condos jutting out from woodland into open sky. There are also some impressive ravines where water runs down after a rain, presumably down through the Stone Nullah underground box culverts to the sea. 

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After a hairpin bend, the path steepens again as you head up toward the gap. This last stretch often has walkers resting on the side, bikers walking their bikes and some dog lovers carrying their beloved pooches (eh!). It may feel never ending but fear not, once you see the Dutch Lane intersection, you’re pretty much there. 

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The entire ascent usually takes me less than 25 minutes. Husband carries the baby and walks ahead. He does it in about 15 minutes, but I tell him it’s not a competition. 

The trail literally spits you out onto a rather tricky traffic intersection. It’s on a bend and all the automobiles coming downhill usually do so with fearsome speed. Best to walk either to the right or left to get a clear view before you cross. Refer to the black line drawn on the map above.

The Wan chai gap/ Coombe road children’s playground (map) is straight ahead.

Note to parents

  1. It’s steep. Try not to bring your pram unless you’re including a pram as a workout weight. I have seen parents doing this though.
  2. It’s steep. Don’t let your kid bring his bike/ scooter to ride up this trail unless you plan on carrying it for him/ her / them.
  3. It’s steep. Do watch your kids as the railings near the ravines aren’t jail bars. My husband tells me kids have fallen through before.
  4. It’s steep….whether you’re going uphill or downhill. Tell the kids not to run downhill lest they want some new scars to boast about. Downhill is a test for knee caps, try going slow.
  5. Get your kids to walk it if you can, the playground (and ice cream) is the incentive. They’ll be so wiped out after the playground you’ll be able to enjoy a quiet dinner.

Indoor playground for Toddlers

If there’s one thing worse than being in an outdoor playground when it’s hot, it’s being there when it’s full of people so there’s nowhere to sit, AND full of mosquitoes that leave horrible welts on your calves for weeks (horrible Hong Kong Park).

It was in the height of summer last year that I discovered Spring. How did I hear about it? A minibus went by with an ad for it and I googled the address and went to check it out.

What a fantastic find. A large open indoor play space with natural light in Wan Chai only exists here. Unfortunately Baumhaus, despite a better location (recently opened on Queens Road East) cannot compare. Combine that with great interior design and warm friendly staff who know when to leave you alone.

Toddler exercise zone
Constantly changing toddler exercise zone


Small person has spent an immeasurable amount of time there ever since. She took to it right away, the toddler exercise area changes every week, providing new challenges. The indoor swings were a huge hit with her, I’m always moving furniture out of the way for maximum amplitude.

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natural light, thoughtful furniture design

The padded stairs, tree house and slide are superb areas for toddlers to work out their little leg muscles. And it’s all cleverly designed so that a small adult can also fit in it if necessary. The glass windows provide a direct visual of the kids and serves to reduce the racket their making.. Very well thought out.

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Park your kid, your pram and yourself

I love that I can sit for a while and perhaps speed read a magazine, have a drink and luxuriate for a few minutes in a nice loo.

Aside from cooking and mandarin classes, small person spends her time with kitchen play sets, train tracks, Lego and other dexterity building toys in the toy zone. Depending on where you sit, as it is an open concept space, it’s possible to keep an eye or ear on your toddler wherever they are.

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Barefoot babies, bring your socks mummies

The play space you’ll get to use for free if you sign up for at least one of their myriad of classes (cooking, language, art, sports, dance….). Though I’m sure that if you’re in the neighbourhood and just need to set your child down for a while, the staff will let you in. 
Spring is on the 3rd floor of a commercial building. There’s lots of parking for cars nearby. You can get the tram to Tonnochy if it’s too far from the MTR (but remember,
no prams on the trams) If you’re coming on foot like me, there are two entrances to the building, via Gloucester Road ( big orange highway) or Jaffe Road. Jaffe road is also known as Food Street in Wan Chai, many delicious restaurants along here, most are mommy-pram friendly if you get there by 11am, before the lunch crowd starts. Otherwise, wait til 2pm and you’ll get your seat and less stressed wait staff.